Call for truthful election ads in Victoria

The Victorian government is being urged to introduce truth in electoral advertising laws, which would make it illegal for misleading political information to be published online.

The joint Electoral Matters Committee on Tuesday tabled its inquiry into the impact of social media on Victorian elections.

The multi-party committee concluded that while social media was "mostly a positive space", it could also be used to promote inaccurate information and fake news, which tends to "spread faster and further than the truth".

The committee said fake accounts and bots could "distort what people see on social media", giving them a false impression of what the community thought and leading to increased polarisation and partisan behaviour.

"The committee's conclusion is that the government needs to take action to reduce the harms of social media and preserve the benefits," committee chair and Labor MP Lee Tarlamis said in a statement.

It has made 33 recommendations, including the introduction of laws that would make it illegal to publish statements in electoral advertising that claim to be fact but are inaccurate.

Such laws are already in place in South Australia and the committee suggests using them as a model.

It has also backed a proposal from a federal parliamentary committee, which would require social media companies to establish the identity of users before they can create an account.

The committee also calls for political parties to establish their own code of conduct for social media behaviour and to encourage MPs and candidates to "lead by example in their behaviour online".

Premier Daniel Andrews said he would consider the recommendations.

Opposition Leader Matthew Guy, a committee member, backed taking action against fake accounts.

"It's concerning, because these are not trolls who take on politicians who don't agree with the government," he said.

"They are trolls who take on journalists, on epidemiologists, on average individuals. I mean, it is outrageous."

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